Improving urban life through Big Data

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Any disruptive technology launched into the market brings challenges that can turn at the very least into unfair situations if they are not properly managed (see the article Data hunting: a lawless world). However, they also introduce solutions and efficient ways of dealing with everyday problems so we should all be grateful for that.

Pinned map with some of the smartest cities worldwide

In this article I want to refer to using Big Data to improve urban life, mention some of the smartest locations and highlighting the one I am currently living in, Barcelona.

This map shows some of the smartest cities worldwide according to a subjective research on the net from my side. Please note I just selected 10 of them and some may not be pinned, it all depends on the criteria we use to define a “smart city” eventually. For those willing to read detailed information about that, I’m including some links in the following paragraph.

We have, for example, cities using gathered information to deal with traffic congestion like Amsterdam and Singapore. Tel Aviv won the Best Smart City Award in the Smart City Expo World Congress in 2014 for its civic engagement project and Buenos Aires is a tech leader city according to Forbes. All in all, I just feel relieved when I see there is a good bunch of places where people are trying to make use of innovation to offer a better quality of life to their citizens.

Let’s now focus on a special one: my beloved Barcelona.

         Barcelona, one of the smartest cities

Barcelona is a special city for me mainly for two reasons: I was born nearby and I’m also living here right now. Aside from its peculiar name that can be divided into three meaningful words in our regional language, Catalan (“bar” doesn’t need any translation, “cel” meaning “sky” and “ona” that stands for “wave”), I can objectively confirm that it is one example of smart city in the world.

According to this article in Spanish, the urban hub is currently engaged in finding an efficient way to manage the touristic overflow, among other matters. Just as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, everything has benefits and downsides and tourism is no exception. So the idea is to use Big Data results to decrease negative effects tourism is causing in the city as per the article. On a personal note, I’d add we shouldn’t blame the sector itself, but the abuse we do of it ourselves. One of our major problems here, for example, is that there are very few flats left to rent on a long-term basis because owners prefer a temporary and more profitable market.

Building in Barcelona, a city where locals have to struggle to find accommodation

This shortage in housing, that affects both long-term renting and global real estate sales, increases consequently prices and we have ended up in an unbearable situation dealing with ridiculous amounts that only the selected high society can afford. It looks like Big Data should be able to take us out of this dead end so I guess it’s time for me to take a sit and watch what’s going to happen. I’m eager to see the impact of innovative measures on the city from the frontline.


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